Last week, in Vitort v. The Kroger Co., No. 3:20-cv-01317-AC, 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18291 (D. Or. Feb. 1, 2022), the District of Oregon dismissed a putative class action claiming that a blackberry spreadable fruit product labeled “Just Fruit” misleads consumers into believing it contains only blackberry fruit, when its primary ingredient is fruit syrup with significant added sugars and other additives. Defendants argued the product’s label is accurate because all of its ingredients—including the sugar—are derived from fruit.
The court agreed, holding that “as long as the Product contains only fruit products in a form that can be distributed over an area or applied on a surface, the label would not be inherently misleading or confusing to a reasonable consumer.” Because FDA has made clear that added sugars in fruit syrups can come from processed fruit or fruit juice, as could the remaining ingredients in the product, the “Just Fruit” label is not “objectively false.”
In reaching this conclusion, the court made two important holdings for other food labeling class actions. First, the court held that the term “Just Fruit” does not equate only to unprocessed fruit. “Clearly,” the court held, any ”spreadable fruit” product “must be crushed, blended, or pureed to some degree and likely contains additional ingredients to allow the fruit to be distributed over an area or applied on a surface.”
Second, the court held that the use of an artificial process to alter the natural form of the fruit does not mean the resulting substance “no longer comprises just fruit”—even assuming a small trace of synthetic substances may remain in the product after processing.
These holdings have important applications for related food labeling class actions, including suits challenging defendants’ use of terms like “pure,” or “-based” to describe their food products.